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Lawsuit Alleges That Palms Damage Motherboards

michael posted more than 13 years ago | from the they-don't-call-it-hotsync-for-nothing dept.

Handhelds 437

schussat writes: "This brief AP article describes a lawsuit that alleges that syncing a Palm Pilot "damages or destroys the motherboards on certain PC brands." Does anyone know more or have experience with this? Is it even possible to cause damage? The article is not very detailed."

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Phyisically Possible? (1)

Hyperbolix (214002) | more than 13 years ago | (#2109743)

Ok, now if I know what I think I know, then the hotsync functions use either USB or serial. On that premise I guess sending a certain high voltage to that port could certainly fry components. I do, however doubt that a palm product is capable of producing the necessary voltage to damage some part of a motherboard. IT couldn't be a short I doubt because (again this is only as far as I know) the highest voltave from either port is 5 volts. Maybe a short? to what? ground? that'll do no damage. a short to anything else would just register a + signal right? ok, enough from me.
- Hyperbolix

Re:Phyisically Possible? (1)

gowdy (135717) | more than 13 years ago | (#2116058)

The palm power supply plugs into the serial port connector. Not sure what voltage that puts out though.... probably not more than 12V.

Re:Phyisically Possible? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2141328)

actual rs-232 spec says that a logic 1 can be anywhere from -12 to -30, and a logic 0 can be anywhere from 12 to 30... however most things skimp, like in hobbyist designs, you're alright with hooking a serial line to an input pin with a resistor to limit the current and merely sensing +5 or -5. I doubt the palm pilot has charge pumps to put out serial port voltage > +-30V (especially when a lot lower voltage would do the trick and would only require multiplying the voltage by 2 or 3. I think these people had defective motherboards

Blown out soundcard with speaker (0)

aXi (6533) | more than 13 years ago | (#2111256)

I have in the past blown out a chip on aa soundcard simply by connecting the left channel rca plug in the output plug for the second speaker. The chip on the soundcard actualy cracked and melted slightly.
A lot of motherboard/device manufacturers leave protection of output out, in order to save time and money developing the board.

Frying motherboards via the Serial Port (1)

Richard Bannister (464181) | more than 13 years ago | (#2111432)

I have to admit I'm not all that familiar with off the shelf PC hardware. Having said that, I'd be astonished if this was possible.

I would assume that serial ports are protected by fuses. If this isn't the case, surely it's a recipe for disaster. It's hardly Palm's fault, either - do you launch a class action suit against god when lightning zaps your modem? :)

In fact, going on that - I've heard of several instances of fried modems after a thunderstorm. These go into the serial port too. If motherboards were vulnerable to damage from bad serial transmissions, surely lightning would kill the computer too here.

Am I missing something?

Re:Frying motherboards via the Serial Port (1)

GeekDork (194851) | more than 13 years ago | (#2123511)

AFAIK, modems have fuses for exactly this purpose. It's because phone lines are - in most cases - highly susceptible for lightning. The standard wall plug however should be protected by a separate overvoltage protection either as a separate plugin device or by a central (per building) device in the fusebox.

These assumptions are made by motherboard producers. This and the strong belief that each and every device is built to safety standards leads to blown ICs. In most cases when some onboard interface gets an overdose, it's some diode or even IC that blows.

The worst thing I had was a fried memory chip on a graphics adapter. I still owe my vendor big time for handling this as a warranty case and - judging by some labels on the card when it returned - ASUS soldered a new memory chip to the card.

Re:Frying motherboards via the Serial Port (2)

Dr_Cheeks (110261) | more than 13 years ago | (#2129918)

3 points:
  1. Firstly, lightning packs a much much bigger kick than anything a Palm could muster. Way bigger than mains voltage too.
  2. Cook the modem, and you'll have trouble sending any data to the mobo. I guess you might just about manage to do this, but only if the kit wasn't designed too well. I'd expect that Palm would be producing fairly high-quality kit.
  3. Your point about suing doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I'm sure a lot of people would sue God if they could : ). But seriously, if a garage put new tires on my car, and that somehow caused my engine to explode (I know, stupid example, but I'm trying to do my job at the same time as post) then you can bet I'd be going after the garage for compensation. Assuming I could prove something so improbable....
Not trying to flame, just trying to help.

Lightning experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2130600)

Crackling sounds followed by thunder so loud, I was struck into an almost drooling catatonia. External modem was smoking and dead forever but motherboard and everything else was fine.

Re:Frying motherboards via the Serial Port (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2153464)

Oh I've had 3 modems destroyed by lightening, but only 1 machine went down - well, it was more like up actually, with sparks and smoke...

Seriously though, a Palm frying a PC? Sounds like a dodgy PC rather than the Palm. And could someone explain class-action lawsuits? I'm from the UK and haven't got a clue what they are...

Why sue Palm? (5, Insightful)

OpenSourced (323149) | more than 13 years ago | (#2111435)

Why not the motherboard maker? Perhaps they are defective, perhaps they don't even conform to standards. It cannot be a very widespread problem or else we'd have heard about it before. (Well, except if it's one of the newest Palms)

That raises an interesting question. You have a problem when two pieces of equipment interact. One of them blows up. Who to sue? The one that survives, assuming it "broke" the other one? (That seems to be the option taken) The one that breaks, assuming it was a piece of junk to start with? Both?

And the answer is.............THE RICHEST COMPANY, STUPID!!!


Re:Why sue Palm? (3, Funny)

Richard Bannister (464181) | more than 13 years ago | (#2124527)

And the answer is.............THE RICHEST COMPANY, STUPID!!! why Palm? :-)

News: broken mother boards get broken more easily (1)

hardaker (32597) | more than 13 years ago | (#2112253)

So, let me get this straight: you plug in an external device into your machine and the mother board gets damaged because of it. Since the article is completely informationless as to what the actual cause of the problem is, I'll assume it's a problem with voltage levels on the serial port (ie, the palm is using voltage levels higher than what the mother board is designed to handle).

Since I strongly doubt that the palm device is using voltage levels that are significantly higher than the expected levels, I'd bet that the "certain PC brand" mother boards are, um, well, some of the cheapest boards ever made. (Warning: If you don't use voltage levels between 0.000000 and 5.0000001, we can't be responsible for damage to your mother board).

Re:News: broken mother boards get broken more easi (1)

dlbowm (99810) | more than 13 years ago | (#2134522)

Just for the purpose of being picky, it would be "Voltage Levels between -12.000000 and +12.000001" for a 16550 series UART.

Re:News: broken mother boards get broken more easi (5, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 13 years ago | (#2136618)

rs232 is -12 to +12 volts for representing a 1 and 0 respectively. Rs232 ports can usually handle a surge up to 2X that voltage range without damage and the max232 chip which is normally found in mo-bo's today (or it's cheap chineese copy cousin) can sink a larger surge. Cince the serial port is used to seeing a 24volt span (-12+12=24 in volts math) then a surge of 48volts can be handled easily. Therefore in order to damage the driver chip you need to supply greater than 48 volts to the pins, and way higher than that to get past the driver chip to the PIO chip... which being cmos will die a horrible death at 7-8 volts.

there is now way this could happen. (I have seen computers sit there with close to 55 volts AC on the serial pins being inducted from a long serial run in a factory. with no damage to the PC or the serial hardware.

Short of a direct static shock to the port, which will only take out that serial port, you cant damage the mobo with a serial device (unless your serial device is a lamp cord and plug wired to a 9 pin plug.... I could see 110V ac could create a bit of trouble in the pc

My my (-1, Offtopic) (513464) | more than 13 years ago | (#2112254)

I believe it's the first.

So said Zarathustra: (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2111482)

Nietzsche is dead.

No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2151565)

"Thus Spake", dumbass.

P.S. Nietzsche is a degenerate.

-- Klimov

AP mirror (2, Informative)

Barbarian (9467) | more than 13 years ago | (#2112255)

Amazing, the site is /.'ed and I haven't even gotten first post yet.

Try this AP link []

broken, sorry, Yahoo one works (3, Informative)

Barbarian (9467) | more than 13 years ago | (#2112676)

this on on Yahoo! [] works.

Re:AP mirror (4, Funny)

Matthias Wiesmann (221411) | more than 13 years ago | (#2153125)

You mean people on ./actually read the article first and post after?

My god, this should be in the headlines...

Re:AP mirror (1)

nwetters (93281) | more than 13 years ago | (#2114526)

Yes, the people on dot-slash always read the articles first.

Re:AP mirror (2, Informative)

Gumbytwo (68015) | more than 13 years ago | (#2153126)

It worked fine for me.
This sounds like a lawsuit to get money based on some bogus claim. How can you possibly damage a motherboard. The voltage is all regulated by the motherboard, so it couldn't be that. The timing is all regulated by ... the motherboard, so it couldn't be that. I've never known of any binary values that could damage a motherboard... so what is it? Prolly it causes some BIOS problem or something like that, and they're calling it "damage."
Just my quick uninformed take.

Re:AP mirror (1)

lfourrier (209630) | more than 13 years ago | (#2130599)

if, for some reason, the alimentation of the palm is defective, and sent to the serial port, perhaps it could damage some cheap serial port controller.
Is burning a chip on the motherboard damaging the motherboard?

Serial Port Frying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2112658)

I worked for a customer once that had a serial port connection to a Key Card controlled fence gate. Basically every time there was as lightening storm it would blow out the serial port. Not even a surge protector on the port would help. But the PC was never fried just the serial port. So we just kept a bunch of serial port cards on hand and swapped em out every storm. I find it hard to believe a palm could generate the voltages needed to fry and entire Motherboard.

Happened to me :( (1)

nanoakron (234907) | more than 13 years ago | (#2113526)

Oh my god! This is so true - I had an AOpen motherboard running my PIII system with outdated 1998 BIOS, but no problems when synching my palm Vx. So, I thought "This is 2001 - new millenium, time for new BIOS!" :) Probably the worst decision I've made this year... Just 5 hours after updating my BIOS to the latest 2001 version the system *literally* explodes - a smoking insurance writeoff. Apparently (according to the techies working for the insurance company) the 'smoothing capacitor in the PSU recieved a fatal overvoltage when connecting a peripheral'. Sorry I don't have more details but I haven't been able to access my HDD (where I keep info on any upgrades I do) since the system fried....but I should be getting a new MB soon - fortunately the rest of the (rather expensive) components were spared. So if you've got an AOpen motherboard with (I think) Award BIOS.....DONT UPDATE!!! -Nano.

Retreat!!! It's a trap!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2114527)

went out and bought these motherboards just to see it with my own eyes. Paid lots of EU.
tried to sync my Palm with this certain motherboard brand, just to watch the motherboard explode. (Even wore my bicycle helmet)
Guess what?
Motherboard intact. Palm crashed.
i lost 5 telephone numbers i had registered and a free solitaire game i don't know where to download it again.
Sue them! Sue them! Sue the man who wrote this stupid article! let him dial random numbers till he contacts the five missing person from my agenda, in order to be permitted to write shit again!

Serial Port keeps getting killed on my Laptop (2, Interesting)

djb (19374) | more than 13 years ago | (#2115648)

I've had the motherboard replaced on my Dell laptop a few times, because the serial port that my Palm V gets plugged into never seems to last more than a month. After which time it only seems to work for two or so minutes at a time.

I've always put this down to the build quality of Dell laptops, I've also had the screen, keyboard, CD writer and battery replaced over the last year and a number of other people have had the same serial port problem in my office.

In the end I gave up and got a USB serial adapter to fix the problem, as I came to the conclusion that the port on my laptop wasn't properly earthed.

Their may be something in this, but I think they should be sueing their motherboard supplier. I ran the Palm V on my old Gateway laptop without problem for over a year.


An Ex-Dell Tech Post (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2115741)

I can say that I personally saw this occur several times in tech support and those of us who cared to research it saw it as a problem of static electricity and the Palm V cradle through the serial port. The real problem though was ever figuring out if the Palm V's cradle (one of the ones that plugs into the wall to charge the PDA while cradled) was truly at fault or if the motherboards were not grounded properly. Either way, it's gonna be expensive for someone because one of the units isn't quite right. We always replaced the motherboard once but warned that if the cradle was bad, it'd likely zap the replacement motherboard and we wouldn't be keen on constatly replacing a $100+ motherboard because of a $15 cradle. Eventually new revs came out for both units and it seemed to take care of itself like a lot of tech issues do. The proper people get notified and replacements are issued. I don't see why lawsuits need be filed. There are plenty of worse things happening out there to people's systems.

-A Quiet Reader
"No matter where you go... There you are..." --Buckaroo Bonzai

Re:An Ex-Dell Tech Post (5, Informative)

Rendus (2430) | more than 13 years ago | (#2152494)

A not so quiet reader and former Dell Dimension Product Specialist posting to say that what the Anonymous Coward I'm replying to says is true. We replaced motherboards killed by Palm Vs constantly. The fact Dell replaced these things leads me to believe it's the MB's fault, not the Palms.

One question... (3, Interesting)

JoeShmoe (90109) | more than 13 years ago | (#2116060)

Did she plug it in while the computer was running? Assuming of course it isn't a USB cradle which is supposed to be hot-swappable.

Personally, I don't know if the voltages in the serial port are enough to do damage (I think the parallel and video ports are the hot ones) but still, if she's tooling around with a metal-ringed connector with her fat greasy fingers in the back of her computer who knows what she could short out?

Honestly, I look at this claim with as much skepticism as the people who find live maggots in a McDonalds hamburger that just went through frying in a microwave for three minutes.

Besides, even if one Palm cradle was faulty and shorted out something on the motherboard at best Palm is liable to have that single motherboard repaired. Class action status means a bunch of people need to have problems with this and this is the first I've heard of it. Devices have been using the serial/parallel ports since time began, what's so special about Palms?

- JoeShmoe

Re:One question... (1)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 13 years ago | (#2123435)

Devices have been using the serial/parallel ports since time began, what's so special about Palms?

The obvious one is that they are routinely hot-plugged into a port that probably doesn't have the necessary surge protection on it. Of course this would apply to anything that syncs data via serial or parallel ports, not just Pilots, or PDAs for that matter.

I can see it would be a problem in theory, but not in regular practice. It sounds much more likely a few people just got unlucky with electrical tolerances than a design flaw IMHO.

Re:One question... (1)

Richard Bannister (464181) | more than 13 years ago | (#2153481)

Honestly, I look at this claim with as much skepticism as the people who find live maggots in a McDonalds hamburger that just went through frying in a microwave for three minutes.
That's a different issue, relating to how well said burger is cooked :)

Re:One question... (1)

JoeShmoe (90109) | more than 13 years ago | (#2110677)

Dude, after the ebola incidents at Jack In The Box the official cooking policy for every fast food chain is "well well done". In fact, a lot of chains won't even cook medium or medium well if you ask for it (I know someone who used to order his burger medium and laments that he can't find a place that will do it anymore).

Some McDonalds may still use a griddle, but almost all of them are now using these microwave ovens that they toss a pre-packaged/pre-sealed container of meat patties that are all nuked on high. The idea that maggots would still be alive is laughable.

Major chains get on average 2000-3000 claims for damages every month. Sadly, it's often easier to pay the amount than to research the facts. Risk managment is the cost of doing business in this litigious society.

- JoeShmoe

Re:One question... (2, Funny)

WowTIP (112922) | more than 13 years ago | (#2152987)

ebola incidents at Jack In The Box

Uhm... Are you sure it was Ebola? :)

Re:One question... (1)

JoeShmoe (90109) | more than 13 years ago | (#2116374)


Too many late-night biological warfare movies...

- JoeShmoe

Re:One question... (1)

ChadN (21033) | more than 13 years ago | (#2152988)

Ha, I laughed at that one... But I assume you mean "E Coli", and not "ebola"...

Hardware vs Software (2, Flamebait)

SurrealKnife (245528) | more than 13 years ago | (#2116928)

*13 million units sold
*2 people with problems
*Class-action lawsuit

*1 unit sold per home PC (on average)
*approx. 1 crash per week on average purely caused by Windows
*No comeback

WTF is going on here? It really is about time someone saw sense on these kind of issues, software companies can release whatever they like and we have no call on them - if only a tiny percentage of users have problems with hardware, they start a class-action lawsuit!

Re:Hardware vs Software (1)

Noehre (16438) | more than 13 years ago | (#2136172)

Nevermind that most Windows crashes are caused by poorly coded device drivers... Then again, who needs to make sense when they are waging a Holy Crusade?

1 crash per week?! (2, Funny)

Richard Bannister (464181) | more than 13 years ago | (#2146188)

*approx. 1 crash per week on average purely caused by Windows
Please let me know where you got your version of Windows that only crashes once a week on average. The amount of time that would save...

Re:1 crash per week?! (1, Offtopic)

ajs (35943) | more than 13 years ago | (#2152972)

Actually, since I've been playing EverQuest more and more, my desktop has been Windows 98 almost exclusively for the last few months (while I use Red Hat Linux at work and on my server).

Windows has never blue-screened on me (at least not since the last major update which was at least several months ago; can't remember before that...), but here's what I do that might make me unique:

1. I run Mozilla, not IE. Browser as core OS component... oops.
2. I do most of my work on Linux systems via SecureCRT. No office, no big, flashy Real Player, etc.
3. I don't run any services off of my Windows desktop. Any file-sharing, Web serving, etc is done from the Linux server.

So the 1/week crash myth seems to be a little far-fetched. This was CERTAINLY the case with 3.1 and 95, but 98 was fairly stable. NT 2000 is not too bad, but I use it rarely.

Windows does get better, which you have to be aware of, if you're going to rationally explain to others why the should use something else.

Of course, if EverQuest ran under Linux, I would forget I had a Windows partition....

OT: your signature Re:Hardware vs Software (1)

jotaeleemeese (303437) | more than 13 years ago | (#2153263)

If you are going to beg, at least beg properly. What the hell do you do?

That's nothing... (3, Funny)

Myco (473173) | more than 13 years ago | (#2121110)

I heard there's an operating system out there which can damage users' wetware, making them stupider and more complacent the more they use it.

Re:That's nothing... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2136173)

I heard there is another operating system that lots of people work on, and see the source code. Unfortunately, it turns them into arrogant jerks!

FUD (2, Offtopic)

Perdo (151843) | more than 13 years ago | (#2121111)

Looks like the win CE marketeers are alive again. First bluetooth now this.

Palm crashes hotmail! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2123092)

I used my Palm to surf the net and get my mails, and i noticed that hotmail crashed!
Can i have the names of the lawyers? I smell money!!!

Visor handheld (1)

quamper (229753) | more than 13 years ago | (#2123093)

My Visor does crazy things when I try to hotsync it on my Dell Windows 2K machine at work.

Sometimes if I plug it into it's cradle(USB) while another program is up on the pda( for example: Rally 1000) and press the HotSync button on the cradle it reboots my machine, and it will occasionally do the same thing, but not quite as often, when I try to plug it into the cradle while it's off.

It's more of a USB problem, but I think it's the way they designed these cradles, because I don't have any problems with any other USB devices on my machine. *shrug*

What's so special about that? (2, Informative)

stew77 (412272) | more than 13 years ago | (#2126749)

That's no different from hot-plugging any other devices, be it a mouse, a printer or a modem. Hot-plugging always contains the risk of damaging the chip that sits behind the port. That's nothing special to the Palm.

Not a very good article (5, Informative)

Mike1024 (184871) | more than 13 years ago | (#2127533)


The article implies that this is somehow software-based, and most people probably thought 'Bullshit', and rightly so.

A google [] search for Palm damage motherboard [] turns up some better articles: This one [] , and a follow-up here [] are both pretty good.

The guy making the claim has a page here [] . The guy (called Greg Gaub) details his story in which his Hewlett packard desktop computer's motherboard was ruined; Greg's claim is that the motherboard was damaged because of a faulty or badly designed Palm V cradle which doesn't dissapate static charges.

Quoth I: As you may be aware, The PalmV and Vx devices have an aluminum casing. They also have a cradle with, in my opinion, a design flaw that does not dissipate static electric charges that travel from a person (holding or reaching for their PalmV) into the cradle, and on into the desktop computer's motherboard via the serial connector.

It does seem a somewhat unlikely problem, but I suppose it could be possible, in theory at least.


Not the same guy. (1)

Richard Bannister (464181) | more than 13 years ago | (#2123197)

The guy making the claim has a page here.
Nope. The lawsuit has been filed on behalf of two people - Melissa Connelly and Laurence Stanton. Not Greg Gaub, though who knows, he may join the party :)

Re:Not a very good article (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2151193)

Ok, I'm intrigued as to how it's Palm's fault. As far as I can see in the guys article, the Palm and the cradle both still work. Hence you could argue that the Palm and cradle cope with static buildup very well, as both have evidently experienced it and survived. However, the PC doesn't look like it copes too well with it. After 20 years of PC's though, I would've thought manufacturers would've twigged that other electronic devices may, at some point, be plugged into their computers and as such, voltage differences like this may occur.

An important point to mention is that this would still have occurred if any static-charged object was brushed past the serial port, hence the weakness is contained within the PC. The Palm and cradle simply acted as a conduit for the charge to follow, which is to be expected by both PC manufacturer and customer as they're are by nature designed to allow charge to flow through them.

Re:Not a very good article (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2152414)

Greg Gaub seems like an ok guy, but his site has a some problems. He has this listed under his "flames" seciton:
"I have viewed the damage shown on the above websight. It is my opinion that a static charge from your body is not going to do that much damage to a IC (Integrated Circuit). You have something else wrong, probably the wiring in your house."
Mr. Gob, you moron, JCZ is not flaming you, just commenting. And, JCZ is exactly right: static discharge would not cause bubbling like that on a chip. Here's a test you can do at home:
  1. Take a soldering iron and heat it up.
  2. touch soldering iron to tip of index finger and hold
  3. does the skin bubble up? yes.
  4. take soldering iron and touch to chip and hold.
  5. does the chip bubble up? no. chips can take a lot more energy than your finger.
  6. repeat experiment with static electricity and your remaining good finger.
  7. does your skin bubble up? no. neither will the chip.
  8. conclusion: JCZ is right, and you are wrong.
Now, it is quite possible that your palm and/or the static did hurt your machine, but that chip has nothing to do with it. How did it happen? if some small percentage of all people have bubbled chips in their boxes anyway, but the only people who look are the ones who've just zapped them, that same percentage of the people who've just zapped them are probably going to attribute the bubbling to the static zapping... but that doesn't make it so.

furthermore, even if your motherboard was properly designed to ... oh nevermind, this is a waste of my time.

Try to be more smart and less stupid, please.

Re:Not a very good article (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 13 years ago | (#2153698)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but if the static charge was traveling to the computer, isn't that why the computer is supposed to be grounded? I would guess that he either has an improperly grounded computer (3-prong to 2-prong adapter) or his wall socket has not been properly wired (this is incredibly common). I've even seen ground wires that were "live."

Sue them (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 13 years ago | (#2128763)

If I were Palm I would sue the court for slander. They should be much more specific!

Only sweaty palms (4, Funny)

k-flex$ (315275) | more than 13 years ago | (#2128765)

condensation and all ;0

Re:Only sweaty palms (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2151802)

THis is what the fuck is wrong with /. these days. A witty post, actually goddamned humorous AND on topic (sorta), and no mods. WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING THROUGH THE MODERATORS HEADS? Do those cumsuckers even read the posts anymore, or do they mod up there buddies, down random others?

Re:Only sweaty palms (0, Offtopic)

BadDoggie (145310) | more than 13 years ago | (#2114525)

Hey, dumbass.

When we get mod points, we don't all sit reloading every thirty seconds like f1r5T p0sT biznatchiz. I check back every 30-45 minutes or so, sometimes reloading as soon as I've read every comment (score=0, nested) if it's a really hot or interesting topic.

It was a DAMNED funny post, and if I had points today, I'd've blown one on that... it was one of the best jokes I've seen in a long time here. +2 Funny, +2 Subtle, +3 read three times to make sure you got it, +2 COMPLETELY on-topic, blah blah pak chooie.

As it was, I got in here with 72 posts showing and your rant was under a +4 Funny post. Calm down. I'd mod more if I had more points (I'd start some modding down, as well), but I only gets five points of love to share maybe once every week or two.

I find that most people quit bitching about moderators when they 1) read the mods guidelines and 2) actually mod a couple times. Nothing sucks more on /. than having a perfect comment (informative/insightful) and having to post it AC because you don't want the points you gave to some other post to be lost. Except maybe Taco's spelling and some lame complaints about moderators.

This will probably be modded down -1 Offtopic (rightfully so), but it needed to be said. Bu-bye, karma.


Re:Only sweaty palms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2153699)

That comment should be "redundant." In EVERY GODDAMN STORY about Palm Inc., some moron makes a stupid joke about masturbation. That joke is modded up to 5, Funny. It was funny the first time, and maybe the second time, but not any more. Kill it.

Hmmm, so not user error at all. Right? (5, Insightful)

Dr_Cheeks (110261) | more than 13 years ago | (#2129381)

I never heard this exact problem when I was doing tech support, but I got dozens of similar problems; "Since you unlocked my account my email's disappeared!", "Office 97 has broken my printer!" etc. Until I hear further details, I'm going to assume that this is down to users screwing up somewhere and trying to get compensated for it.

I mean, really; "damages or destroys the motherboards on certain PC brands" - just a little too vague there for me to take it seriously. Especially with a company that's shifted as many units ("more than 13 million") as Palm.

Re:Hmmm, so not user error at all. Right? (5, Insightful)

noelbush (226224) | more than 13 years ago | (#2151743)

This is an example of the kind of attitude that keeps corporate users unhappy with their technical support. It's not right to assume that just because you can't imagine the causal connection between (your example) Office 97 and a printing problem that there isn't one. Haven't you personally had many experiences in which changing one variable (say, plugging a printer into a different USB port) immediately precedes something else, seemingly unrelated, "breaking"? No matter how fastidious you are, no matter what operating system you're using, an OS + thousands of programs + all the variability in hardware configurations in the world is far too complex a system for you to intuitively know whether the report of a problem's apparent cause is right.

If you're in a service profession, your job is to serve -- to assume that your customers are reporting, to the best of their ability, what they understand about the situation, and to use the information they give you, however flawed, to find the source of the problem. Up with "stupid users", I say.

The argument that this company shipped more than 13 million units is hardly support for the premise that they can't screw up. And it's a cop-out to lay the blame at the feet of pejoratively-labaled "users". Both the computer hardware and software industries get away with far too little responsibility to ensure quality in their products.

Re:Hmmm, so not user error at all. Right? (2)

Dr_Cheeks (110261) | more than 13 years ago | (#2113944)

Hey, hey; easy there : )

I'm no longer in tech support, but when I was I experienced people attributing a fault to something that experience told me wasn't the culprit. Each time I checked (yes, I provided the best support I could regardless of my opinion of the user), my initial suspicion that it was actually user error turned out to be correct.

My original point was not that this is definitely down to the users. It was simply that at the moment experience tells me that the fault probably lies with the user, not the hardware.

And, for the record, my corporate users all seemed perfectly happy with my performance : )

port voltages... (2)

Uller-RM (65231) | more than 13 years ago | (#2146427)

To everyone wondering about the power sources on the HotSync cradles, one thing to keep in mind is that serial ports are built to take much higher AND lower voltages than the palm cradle. Those run off 5V IIRC...

Serial ports are built to the EIA-RS232 spec, which requires it to handle at least -10V to 10V to barely come within spec. Recommended tolerance for EIA-RS232 is an even larger swing.

About the only thing I can see is that there was a short, and it toasted the UART. Since many systems are integrating the UART onto the southbridge, this could be a possibility. However, I doubt this will ever make it to class action status. Palm will pay for the mobos and fix the cradle's design, and that will be that.

Surfing /. damages the monitor (3, Funny)

heytal (173090) | more than 13 years ago | (#2151132)

A lawsuit asserts that VALinux Inc's Slashdot "News for Nerds" has damaged desktop monitors when users visit the website through their computers. CmdrTaco has refused to comment on this issue.

I don't buy it. (5, Insightful)

Fat Casper (260409) | more than 13 years ago | (#2151213)

When my palm went bad (1/2 the screen stopped accepting input), Palm just wanted to know the serial #. I've never registered it or anything, so all it told them was that I was actually holding a Palm. They mailed me a new one, and I mailed the dead one back.

I called them with a stupid problem and they mailed me a new one. I'm guessing that the first Palm heard of this mess was when the reporter asked them about the suit. If they got an off the wall complaint like that, they would probably have gievn the customer a new box so they could tear apart the old one and see if it had actually happened. From a curiosity standpoint, it'd be worth the money. "I wonder if our product can do that?" Trying to duplicate the results wouldn't work. Getting your hands on a box that (allegedly) it's already happened to is much better.

Sounds like a couple of morons and a law firm willing to spend a couple of associates' time on a crap shoot. Business as usual.

So it's definitely palm's fault, right? (2, Interesting)

edunbar93 (141167) | more than 13 years ago | (#2151473)

damages or destroys the motherboards on certain PC brands

Heh. So they're suing Palm? Why aren't they suing the motherboard makers for making such crappy motherboards? It seems to be a much higher likelihood, since it only happens to *some* motherboards. My guess would be that palm has deeper pockets.

Either that, or the users in question here don't know jack about what really went wrong... like if they put a cup of coffee in their "cup holder" and when they hit the hot-sync button, it closed.

here's the downlow (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2151611)

this only seems to happen with palm V's, it also doesn't seem to be restricted to specific motherboards. when the palm is in its craddle and you connect it to the pc, it will fry the port. in my experience its more of 'when' than 'if'. in fact, the [nameless major PC brand] that I was previously employed at has a policy of NOT REPLACING MOTHERBOARDS THAT HAVE PROBLEMS RELATED TO THE SERIAL PORT IN CASES WHERE A PALM V HAS BEEN INVOLVED.

hi (-1, Offtopic)

lposeidon (455264) | more than 13 years ago | (#2151834)


It was me! (-1)

gnulix guy (48938) | more than 13 years ago | (#2151839)

Okay, it's time to 'fess up. I am one of the two people behind the lawsuit. Did you guys miss me? :-)

Voltage running through palm cradles (2, Insightful)

jonratcliffe (456871) | more than 13 years ago | (#2152018)

I have a Palm Vx which charges its battery everytime you place it in the cradle. There is a mains adapter which plugs straight into the serial cable/adapter which then goes into the serial port on my pc (as oppose to plugging into the cradle itself). This could explain how a _higher_ voltage could make it to the motherboard. I'm not sure what the voltage is because I don't have the cradle with me. What you then have is essentially a mains/power adapter feeding straight into your serial port and then straight to the motherboard. The consequences of connecting the two together with everything switched on is probably similar to connecting a live SCSI cable to a SCSI interface - lots of sparks and a real p**sed off motherboard. just a thought. Maybe I'll turn all my gear off next time I plug my cradle in - just in case ;)

Speaking as a Dell Tech Supp agent... (1)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 13 years ago | (#2152199)

I've had a few cases where plugging in a Palm and an HP printer at the same time would make the system try to do a network boot. Which was easily fixed by fdisk /mbr but nothing big...

I did blow a processor before (4, Informative)

Tribbles (218927) | more than 13 years ago | (#2152200)

I plugged in a speaker into the computer while it was on, and the processor blew. It was probably to do with the voltage differences, causing a spike in the PSU.

I can imagine that the Palm may do the same thing, but I'd hope that there would be warnings to tell people to ensure that if they're plugging different things in which are connected to the mains that they'd better make sure everything's off.

Of course, with connectors that earth levels properly, and with spike protection, this shouldn't be an issue.

Palm is a higher-quality & lower-power device (1)

Dr_Cheeks (110261) | more than 13 years ago | (#2114628)

A speaker is a fairly power-hungry device (compared to most computer components) - driving that magnet back and forth takes a bit of effort. Which is why any reasonable high-power speakers run off mains power, not internal batteries. That, and they're relatively easy to manufacture, and so may be of low enough quality to occasionally cause a dangerous power-spike, while otherwise being perfectly acceptable.

The Palm, OTOH, does run on batteries. You can charge it up from mains, but it's not a particularly high-power device. In addition, they're manufactured to much higher standards than speakers need to be.

In addition, I'd expect serial/USB ports to be designed/engineered to be far less likely to allow a power spike to fry anything on the motherboard (or at least anything beyond the port controller).

I'll admit that this is all based on stuff that I can remember off the top of my head, and a bit of sensible conjecture (this is Slashdot after all : )), but I'd be horrified to find out that something like this was possible without gross negligence. Essentially, I expect that the chances of a Palm repeating your speaker/mobo problems are incredibly slim, and if it does happen then someone has screwed up badly.

Re:I did blow a processor before (0) (513464) | more than 13 years ago | (#2117418)

(This is actually not about PDAs, but more about electrical connections)

Use a branching box. This should bring all connected electrical devices into one and same electric potential, whether they are grounded or not.

A word of advice though: don't do your electrical connections as I did: I plugged my computer and peripherals into a branching box with grounded sockets, but the box itself wasn't connected into a grounded power outlet. Therefore, if any of the devices should have failed and leaked, say, a 115V spike through the grounding pin, it would have only be directed against the other devices, since the grounding wasn't going anywhere from that branching box..

So check your connections, people, because they might be dangerous, not necessarily to yourself but to your precious pieces of equipment.

(Oh, and could someone more electric engineering -oriented person verify or correct my intuition on this, thanks.)

Re:I did blow a processor before (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2123434)

Did the processor like it?

Re:I did blow a processor before (1)

DreamMaster (175517) | more than 13 years ago | (#2128121)

Now that's definitely food for thought. On most newer Palm's, the cradle has recharging facilities. This is implemted physically (in all the Palm's I've seen) by having the power cord directly connect to the serial or USB plug - the cable that then goes to the Palm cradle has both the signal and power lines within it.

It might thus be possible, on a defective socket, for the power lines to get shorted to the data lines, and cause damage to the main computer. I'm no expert on the serial/USB interfaces of computers, but it's entirely possible that even the low voltage coming out of the power-pack could do some damage.

If this was the case, then they'd certainly have a firm basis for suing Palm.

Re:I did blow a processor before (5, Informative)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 13 years ago | (#2120506)

It might thus be possible, on a defective socket, for the power lines to get shorted to the data lines, and cause damage to the main computer. I'm no expert on the serial/USB interfaces of computers, but it's entirely possible that even the low voltage coming out of the power-pack could do some damage.

The USB spec explicitly says that the data lines must be able to withstand this sort of thing. In practice, they have bloody great clamp diodes (you've seen them on circuit diagrams, they're the ones connected "backwards", cathode to signal, anode to ground), which absorb the voltage spikes.

You'd have to be hot-plugging a MIG welder into your USB ports to spike them that badly.

Re:I did blow a processor before (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2133508)

What about serial???

Re: I did blow a processor before (2)

Futurepower(tm) (228467) | more than 13 years ago | (#2129917)

Tribbles, something must have happened between the time you plugged in the speaker, and the time the processor went bad, because there is no direct connection between the audio line output and the processor.

Probably a surge destroyed the power supply, and that destroyed the processor.

Re:I did blow a processor before (1)

The Unknown Anorak (92879) | more than 13 years ago | (#2151827)

I can't see that being the case with a hotsync; you settle the palm onto the connector and then you either hit the hardware button on the cradle or you trigger the sync in software on the palm. It's only then that the connection with the serial port is opened.

Having said that, the hotsync is triggered by shorting two pins on the palm's connector, and on li-ion palms the cradle also supplies a charging voltage, but I'd be very suprised if it was possible for these to feed back along the serial cable and do any damage.

And surely any damage that's done via a serial connection must be down to the motherboard manufacturer? The RS-232 spec (and I'll admit my knowledge here is next to zero) surely must have a fixed maximum voltage on the pins?

RS232 is a difficult standard to use (2, Informative)

riedquat (226343) | more than 13 years ago | (#2152238)

I am not an electrican but as far as I know RS232 is a horrible standard to implement, requiring +15V and -15V signals - requiring voltage converter chips to run from a battery. In my limited experience some devices get away with using +/-10V, 0 and 10V and other levels. The problems here may be due to both the Palm and the motherboard using half-baked RS232 implementations - if the motherboard was expecting 0-10V and actually got +/-15V.

I'm sure someone more versed in electronic engineering could correct or confirm this. Then again, it may be a USB problem anyway.

Re:RS232 is a difficult standard to use (2, Informative)

djeez (472062) | more than 13 years ago | (#2115349)

No, RS232 may be a difficult tandard, but the level converters usually can take up to ~20V IIRC. That's in the standard, anyways. Like other people pointed out, it must be static from the cradle.

If the Palm's case is metallic and is connected to the Palm's ground, then I think it might be possible to avoid static discharge through the motherboard if a simple ground wire is soldered to the 0V pin of the cradle. I've never seen a Palm cradle, but they surely use a simple AC-DC converter for power which hasn't any ground wire.

Re:RS232 is a difficult standard to use (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2116376)

The problem is very common and is due to a grounding problem. The PSU of the PC uses a net filter which has two Capacitors connected from the live wire and the zero wire to the metal shield of the PSU. This is a high impedance voltage divider. This means that when the PC is not grounded it has a voltage of approximately half the net voltage which is in the states 55 volt and in europa 115 volts. The problem is that when a RS232 or PARALLEL device which uses a power supply is connected to the computer this voltage will be on the connections for a short while. Normally the earth connection should be the first one to make. This is the reason why in a USB connector the earth shield is connected before anything else it is mechanically longer !. However the RS232 connector is a bad design and when not carefully connected the signal pins will make contact before the shielding. This means that when there is a 110 volt on the case that the input will have a 110 + 5 or more volt logic level. The RS232 port does not like this and dies. When using any external device which is not designed to be hot plugable switch of everything. Or connect all the equipment on the same power outlet. Keep in mind that many modern PC do not really switch of ATX only go into some kind of standby mode in case of doubt remove the power cord from the outlet.

ESD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2152778)

It would have to be ESD

Re:ESD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2151608)

Electro Static Discharge? I guess it's possible...shag carpet+palm V....

Yes, it it could be true (1)

krokodil (110356) | more than 13 years ago | (#2152857)

In fact, that suite could have some basis.
This is purely hardware issue, having nothing
to do with OS, software or HotSync function.

Palm cradle habe power supply plugged into it.
Since they use 2 contact plug (not 2) under
certian circumstances you coud fire serial port by producung 110V (or 220V) on serial port.

Since mose motherboards have now integrated serial ports
ther reffer to it as damaging motherboard.

Re:Yes, it it could be true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2133506)

Seems ti be a frw kiys in the wrohf place.

user error (0, Flamebait)

lposeidon (455264) | more than 13 years ago | (#2153123)

im doubting that its the palm pda that damaging the motherboard. the error lies within the user.

HotSync? (2, Funny)

Judas96' (151194) | more than 13 years ago | (#2153124)

Somebody must have tried to plug their Palm Pilot directly into a pci slot or something...

Re:HotSync? (2, Funny)

DreamMaster (175517) | more than 13 years ago | (#2129402)

It's possible - I've heard stranger scenarios. One that crops to mind from the [] website is (paraphrased):

A technician, upon opening a box to work out modem problems a customer was having, found no modem card, but a phone cable spliced directly onto the main power cord. Upon asking the customer why on earth that was, the customer replied "Well, whoever made the computer forgot to install the the modem card, so knowing a bit about Electrical stuff I spliced in a cable myself.

It never fails to amaze me just how dumb some people are. ;-).

hrmmm (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2153146)

I suppose you could damage a motherboard if you were to throw a palm at it... or dip the cradle in a tub of water or something....

The kind of people that believe this... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2153147)

...are the ones suprised to find that their computer comes with a retractable beverage holder.

...use AOL, because its the 'best' ISP out there.

...invest in tech stocks.

...propagate e-mail worms.

You left one out... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2123828) Slashdot.

P.S. Props to the incompetent.

No way possible (2, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 13 years ago | (#2153169)

The palm pilot runs at RS232 levels (or USB levels if you have the newfangled versions) and transfers at rs232 datarates.

If the palm is damaging motherboards, then my wacom tablet, external modems, and other serial devices are doing the same....

Whoever is claiming this is either on crack, stupid, or just trying to make a quick buck.

Re:No way possible (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2128539)

First of all, many good, decent Americans are on crack. Second, stop jumping to conclusions, you will make yourself look stupid that way. If you bothered reading even half of the posts before you, you would see that there are people who actually agree that there may be a problem, even though YOU havnt experienced one yet. Mod this guy down

Info from an electronics engineer (3, Informative)

Grab (126025) | more than 13 years ago | (#2153170)

It's surely possible, although unlikely.

The problem occurs if there's any static charge on you. You pick up the serial cable and touch one of the pins, the cable may also end up with a charge on it. Plug it into the PC, and the serial port gets a static shock. This could (although you'd need quite some charge!) damage the serial port. Or you could do a similar thing by touching the serial port pins during the process of plugging the cable in. A really severe static charge could break through the serial port chip to the power supply and cause a spike on that which would damage other devices, although that's highly unlikely - you'd really have to be trying to build up that kind of a charge on yourself.

Of course, if the serial port connector is mounted on the mobo, then the force of plugging and unplugging it could bend the mobo slightly, which in the case of a badly-made and badly-mounted board could be enough to break a track. Or the connector could simply have failed through overuse.

More details on this are required. To win this, the plaintiffs are going to have to prove (a) that their mobos are damaged, (b) that the damage could have been caused by the Hotsync, and (c) that it was Palm's fault rather than the mobo manufacturers releasing a dodgy product. Frankly, (c) sounds a much more logical option.


They've got to be kidding (4, Insightful)

DreamMaster (175517) | more than 13 years ago | (#2153392)

The lawsuit is filed on behalf of *2* people, and they want class action status? ROTFL. Call me cynical, but this sounds too much like the people who try to get warranty replacements of their computers when their cats piddle on it. ;-)

Their computers probably just broke down and they're hoping Palm will settle out of court and give them new ones just to get them to shut up.

Re:They've got to be kidding (0, Troll)

Shanep (68243) | more than 13 years ago | (#2146193)

this sounds too much like the people who try to get warranty replacements of their computers when their cats piddle on it. ;-)

I knew someone who tried to have thier answering machine replaced under warantee after one of thier many cats vomited on it. ;)

Their computers probably just broke down and they're hoping Palm will settle out of court and give them new ones just to get them to shut up.

Exactly, just like these people that put a mouse head into a bag of frozen peas and then try to extort a years supply of frozen peas, etc.

Scumbags. Or perhaps, they're just the type of people who first tried to use thier mouse as some foot peddle device to "make it go" (and then after accidentaly killing it, put it into a bag of frozen... Nah they could'nt be that dumb, could they?).

Re:They've got to be kidding (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2152493)

Been there. Done that. :^)

What They're Doing... (3, Insightful)

UberOogie (464002) | more than 13 years ago | (#2151017)

... is trying to get class-action status, with the assumption that by going to the press, they are going to get other people to come on board.

If you assume they're not hucksters, they are doing this to get people who may not have known about the problem to come out and join their effort to right the wrong.

If you're a realist, they are doing this because they are trying to get greedy and/or stupid people like themselves to jump on the bandwagon and get enough mass to force a settlement. Unintended Acceleration Syndrome, anyone?

Seen it (3, Interesting)

rikkards (98006) | more than 13 years ago | (#2153503)

I saw this happen with 2 motherboards and 3 serial ports. This happened with 2 Palm Vx with the serial Hotsync interface. I have heard rumors about them blowing the serial ports on older motherboards.

Re:Seen it (1)

rikkards (98006) | more than 13 years ago | (#2151257)

Looking at some of the links posted it seems to be happening mostly on the V series. I guess the metal case makes a good conductor for static.
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